Two Islands, Two Cultures, Two Massages : Hawaiian Lomi Lomi and Balinese Massage, How do They Differ ? Part 1

Penny Ellis Bali Bisa

The delightfully gorgeous islands of Hawaii and Bali are both steeped in history and culture, at least once one digs deeper than the superficial attributes that are largely responsible for attracting year-round tourists to their shores…. a tropical climate, beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, themed attractions, varied dining, and much more to consistently place them on the bucket list of global travellers.  

Hawaii’s indigenous population is distinctly Polynesian. Also, home to ethnic groups from Japan, Korea, China, the South Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico and many more nations, most of whom migrated to Hawaii to work on once flourishing plantations.  Hawaiian traditions, rituals and beliefs, the “aloha spirit” is a vibrant and binding part of island society.  Native Hawaiian people are proud of their Lomi Lomi massage which is still today a unique and deeply spiritual massage,

Bali too has borne witness to many global influences, yet the Balinese people have largely retained their original Hindu religion and rituals.   Evidence of this is readily seen everywhere, from the simple daily offerings placed outside every home and business to their frequent and elaborate ceremonies.  These truly showcase their genuine devotion to their Hindu deities. Fortunately, visitors are welcome to observe first-hand these spectacles of dance, music, and vibrant clothing and adornments.

Similar to Hawaii’s Lomi Lomi Massage, Bali has its own distinctive bodywork techniques and traditions. Unlike Lomi Lomi its main purpose was originally physical healing versus spiritual well-being.

Insights into Two of the most Powerful Massages

Hawaiian Lomi Lomi and Balinese Massage are each reflection of their island’s history.  Both share the ability to relax and rejuvenate simply by being under the care of a compassionate therapist. Plus, there are so many physical paybacks for simply surrendering yourself to the touch of dedicated professionals.

Lomi Lomi Massage

Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage

In its truest form, this is a very spiritual and emotional Polynesian bodywork experience which has long been an integral component of native Hawaiian medicine.   It derives from the long-held Hawaiian philosophy of “huna” which is a broad and complex set of beliefs encompassing ancient spiritual teachings aimed at directing energy flow to find harmony and love in all aspects of life.  

In early Hawaii, Lomi Lomi was part of a sacred rite of passage and a restorative ritual, so was very transformational and medicinally healing.  This explains its other names and variants such as Auntie Margaret’s Big Island Massage, Temple Style Massage and Kahuna Massage, a kahuna being a native Polynesian master healer who called on their wisdom to ask for a vision as to who would be the next of their ancestors to receive this honoured ritual.  These related bodywork concepts validate the revered nature of Lomi Lomi and the respect the modality is still given by serious therapists.

“If your hands are gentle and loving, your client will feel the sincerity of your heart, their soul will reach out to yours and God’s healing power will flow through you both”

~ Auntie Margaret

One of the distinguishing features of Lomi Lomi Massage, no matter the manifestation or label, is the love, respect and compassion that the practitioner brings to the table. For this reason, Lomi Lomi is also known as “loving hands” massage.

Therapists who take Lomi Lomi traditions seriously typically begin a session by placing their hands gently on the client’s back. After a short period of stillness, the client is asked to breathe deeply, give into the moment and enter a totally relaxed state.   Female therapists may even say prayers and their male counterparts chant, both helping to set the mood.  Hawaiian music may be played as a further relaxant.  Some may go as far as to invite clients to surrender anything that is no longer serving them and discuss other practices that may enhance their wellness,

So, while techniques are also an important part of a Lomi Lomi massage, much of the impact is achieved through the practitioner’s love and focus on the client’s intention.  The loving hands and hearts approach delivers a uniquely satisfying experience on many levels.

Of course, the reality may differ from the myth, but most therapists do infuse the spirit of ‘Living Aloha’ and love into every session

Lomi Lomi Massage in the Back

The Lomi Lomi Full Body Approach

Another unique feature of Lomi Lomi massage is that pressure is generated through more than just the fingers, hands and arms as in conventional massage modalities. Lomi Lomi also utilizes the forearms, knuckles and elbows and some therapists even use their feet, and knees, plus sticks and stones.   

Whether using human or other accessory tools, all of the movements are fluid and rhythmic, effortlessly flowing from head to toe on the body’s top and underside. Often two parts of the body are massaged at the same time as it is believed that this promotes harmony and balance. Many claim it feels like a dance on their body. Plentiful amounts of emollient facilitate further pleasure.

The soothing strokes combined with gentle stretches and joint rotations stimulate the natural flow of energy to bring about adjustments in the client’s physical, emotional and spiritual state.  Considering that Hawaiian shamans believed in a powerful mind-body connection, it is not surprising that Lomi Lomi healing can impact the total self.

Lomi Lomi massage can also be done by two or more people working together. Having two people massaging tends to send the recipient into an even deeper state of bliss.

Practitioners who wish to offer truly authentic Lomi Lomi massage with all of its original accompaniments such as dance, music, prayer and meditation often choose to work privately or in home settings.  However, spas dedicated to authenticity can create the right atmosphere and incorporate selected accompaniments with careful planning.

Lomi Lomi is a traditional Hawaiian massage that uses a combination of massage techniques, nut oils, and sometimes elements of prayer, breathing and dance to restore energy and soothe the body. It is also known as the ‘loving hands’ massage. This name helps to explain its principles – the massage works gently yet deeply into the muscles with continuous, flowing strokes, allowing the recipient to relax and give in to the nurturing touch.

Lomi Lomi works from the belief that memories are not just stored in the brain and mind, but also in every cell of the human body. The long, continuous strokes of the massage are designed to help the body let go of its old patterns and behaviours, which can cause as many stresses and strains as muscle tension.

Lomi Lomi Massage Front

Benefits of Lomi Lomi Massage

Lomi Lomi aims to treat the body and mind as one whole being. It is thought to:

  • release tension
  • assist blood and lymph flow
  • eliminate waste and stimulate toxins
  • rejuvenate the body
  • instil a sense of peace, harmony and well-being.

In Hawaii, Lomi Lomi is used to treat children with upset stomachs and soothe women in labour. A Lomi Lomi therapist will not aim to heal themselves, but to be the facilitator for healing – to enable healing to take place.

What to expect from a Lomi Lomi massage

One of the luxuries of any traditional massage is the thought of its geographical origins. Think of Lomi Lomi as your own little piece of Hawaii, imagine yourself in a treatment room next to miles of sandy beach and feel its holiday effects work their magic!

Try our Lomi Lomi Course Program :

Penny Ellis
Founder/ director of Bali International Spa Academy